Selected Longer Poems of Dan Schneider on Amazon

For those of you who have already experienced a little taste of Dan’s poetry on Cosmoetica and want to see more, his Selected Longer Poems series is now out on Amazon for both Kindle and Paperback.

 

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Dan Schneider’s Selected Short Stories now on Amazon

This is a series of 15 short stories chosen from Dan’s various collections that he has decided to self-publish on Amazon. For people who want to get a greater Cosmoetica fix after seeing what greatness already exists on the website – go get it when it finally becomes purchasable. If the stories are proof enough of greatness, promote Dan’s work so that the corpus will be available to humanity in full one day!

An Isekai Story

The man of no particular distinction was transported into a different world. He opened his eyes . He was in a small glade with sunlight streaming through the trees. A beautiful witch was standing there. The man of no particular distinction was surprised, but this was exactly what he had read about in the fantasy novels he was addicted to.

“Am I in a new world? Can I finally make a name for myself?” he said.

The witch smiled.

“Yes. I have called you here because I want you to destroy a great evil. A tyrant has conquered the city and he razed my village to the ground with his troops. I was the only survivor. I have held vengeance within my heart, seeking for the opportune moment to summon a heroic spirit such as yourself to aid in my vendetta.”

He felt magic power throb in his muscles. He roared. She led him out of the glade to a camp whereby the rest of her comrades were waiting. They roared in joy as well. They provided him with armor and weapons. They taught him how to fight. The training was tough but he made many friends. A few months later, he was ready.

In the dead of the night, the band stormed the castle. The gates were opened thanks to a spy that had managed to get on the inner court’s good side. The night guards were surprised, and they were cut down before they could react. Eventually, the rebellion reached the inner sanctum of the King.

Seated on the throne was a youth in jeans and a sweater – a man of no particular distinction much like himself.

He stood up.

He walked over to the center of the room.

He drew out his sword.

The first man was flabbergasted. He noticed that his allies were standing by the side. They watched without interfering.

“You fool!”

The second man screamed.

“You are now the plaything of an Elder One! This grand show of Rebel and Tyrant is all a sham! If I should slay you, then you will be the next liege, and if you should slay me then I will retain my position! We shall all be eventual losers in this endless dance! And all the winner receives is a short stint of luxury before he has to return to the arena! Even then, that witch will always be there, reminding you that your soul shall eventually be hers to consume!”

The first man looked to the witch. She looked the same, but there was something sinister about her now. It was as though, behind that face, was a monster made of many eyes and the countless screams of the forgotten.

“The soul that is slain shall be eaten. But there is only one solution! You must die by your own hand! Only that way will you be spared from the accursed tentacles of Azathoth!”

The first man was in a pit and confusion as despair. Had it all been a lie? He was still a man of no particular distinction, and he was now going to be consumed in a dark pit of some alien mouth. Either that, or he had to fight to survive, and then die in a later day.

It was too much for him.

He took his blade, and gutted himself.

His blood spilled on the floor.

The last thing he saw, was the smile of the second man, leering at him with a ghastly face.

When the performance was over, the second man breathed a sigh of relief. The ‘rebels’ cleared the corpse away. The witch walked over to his side and sat on his lap. The night guards that had been ‘stabbed’ wiped away the fake blood from their armor.

“My liege. It seems that the next hero shall appear in the Day of Fires at the Stonehook Mountain. That is what is written in the stars.”

The second man gave the witch a kiss on the cheek.

“Excellent. I am glad to have been the first one to think of this. I don’t want any other losers getting in the way of my agricultural reform just because they want to play Hero and lead a meaningless rebellion. Soon, we shall finally have enough men and supplies to assault the Demon King’s Castle in the East.”

Outside of the castle, peasants labored away in square fields. It was the method developed by Chinese civilization that helped to maximize their own growth. But it was a method that did not work unless the people were co-ordinated to ensure that everything was working well together. The king was a pragmatic tyrant. He was inspired by the Legalist methods that he read in history books to help in administration of the Kingdom.

The main reason why the Kingdom was so easily besieged by the Demon King was precisely because of this lack of order. The ‘heroic spirit’ system was a stupidity that made the citizenry constantly look up to the heavens for a savior rather than take matters into their own hands. A few old documents and studies done by the scholars of the inner sanctum even contained the theory that this was an arrangement determined by the Demon King himself – done in order to ensure that only the weakest heroes would stand in his way while keeping the citizenry placated with false hope.

But, in a few years, they would finally stand a chance. It was a plan that was not made from relying on heroes, but it was made from the sweat of men.

The witch left the king’s lap, and headed off to continue her preparation for the next ‘summoning’. To help another poor sap get ‘adjusted’ into his new world.

This was going to be a new world all right. Just not what they were expecting.

Amateur Translations – Zhuangzi: The Fish Story

I recently read somewhere – some Chinese philosophy blog – that putting Zhuangzi into the Chinese Classics was like putting Monty Python next to the Plato’s Republic or something like that. It probably wasn’t to say that you shouldn’t take it seriously (although, actually that was probably one of the goals of the Zhuangzi though in a different sense from why we don’t take Monty Python seriously) – but that the style was crafted in a completely different way from something like the Tao Te Ching or the Analects.

Anyway I’m randomly picking up Classical Chinese, and I saw the excerpt for the famous fish story in the open source course I was doing. The course is over here – it uses texts from Chinese Classics and explains the grammar in each one. Of course, it would really help to be able to understand normal Chinese before you take the course here.

Continue reading

Practicum For Aesthetes – Playing the Stringless Qin

1.

Appreciating beauty is one of the thriftiest hobbies in the world. The moment you understand the principles behind it, traversing a single line or image can provide as much joy as climbing the highest mountains to view the finest scenery. Afterwards, you feel less of a need to spend exorbitant amounts on expensive trips all over the world.

This is exemplified best by a sentence in Hagiwara Sakutaro’s story Cat Town:

しかるに過去の経験は、旅が単なる「同一空間における同一事物の移動」にすぎないことを教えてくれた。何処へ行って見ても、同じような人間ばかり住んでおり、同じような村や町やで、同じような単調な生活を繰り返している。

“Nonetheless, my past experiences taught me that travel is no more than the simple “movement of the same thing within the same space.” No matter where you go, you find the same kinds of people live, repeating the same kinds of monotonous lives, in the same kinds of villages or towns.”

Therefore I do not seek to convince one to understand beauty from the perspective of developing ‘elite tastes’ – but merely from the perspective of economics. Thanks to the internet, we have unprecedented exposure to beautiful things in the form of free texts and pictures. If you can understand the merest aesthetic enjoyment, you can live as the eternal thrift like Warren Buffet – and forge enough of a personal wealth from abstinence, in order to carry out the greatest investments into the sectors of the industry.

Take note that this is only a possibility – in practice, aesthetes have lived with exorbitant decadence. The ideal is the Chinese ‘sage-type’ aesthete. A Chinese saying or anecdote that is frequently attached to such an entity is that he plays a ‘stringless qin’ – based on the story of poet Tao Yuanming who did just that. The implication is that the poet was so attuned to the aesthetic side that he did not even need strings to feel the lyricism emanating from life itself.

2.

The general rule is to never let a work go until you have understood it. In other words, you must not stop your criticism at saying – “this work is 2deep4me” or “this work is a confusing mess”. That merely indicates a thought-destroying cliché that your brain is falling back into. Even if you view it as a matter of taste – taste can still have a certain amount of thorough explanation, and this means that you are not even sure of your own tastes.

Let me, for example, take a random Hagiwara translation:

A damned thief dog
Is howling at the moon above the rotting wharf
A soul listens,
And in gloomy voices,
Yellow daughters are singing in chorus,
Singing in chorus,
On the wharf’s dark stone wall.

Always,
Why am I like this,
Dog
Pale unhappy dog?

Take note that I am critiquing the translation, and for the sake of this analysis I will assume this is the only text.

Confusion, in this case, comes from the juxtaposition of certain images that appear in a dreamlike way – out of nothing. Firstly there’s a dog, then the setting of the place, then a second entity that views, and then a third series of entities that are the “yellow daughters” – finally, it ends with the poet’s own statement.

The question then is whether this confusion is used appropriately. Although the imagery is disjunct logically, they form a certain kind of atmosphere. “Damned thief dog”, and “howling at the moon” and “rotting wharf” and “dark stone wall” – form a Gothic and dark moody sense. Because of this sense created, the ‘yellow daughters’ is given the connotation of a different kind of yellow. Like a sickly kind of yellow – just like that story the Yellow Wallpaper. Even the word ‘soul’ takes on a spectral tremor due to these series of connotations. In other words, it is only confusing in logic, but not in sense.

Once you understand the mood of the first stanza, then, when you link it to the second stanza, the scene in the first becomes a stark connotation to the poet’s internal state. Once he identifies himself as the dog, the positioning of the poem becomes obvious.

But you then have to ask the question – is it an aesthetically pleasing sense? This depends on the constitution of the reader. The first barrier is, of course, a reader who can suspend logical connection for the sheer feeling of the mood. If you are not this kind of reader, you are already exempt from this sphere of appreciation – no words from any poet or prose master will ever touch you. Once you are past that barrier – then it depends on whether you are the type of person who can appreciate the Gothic or mournful mood itself. That requires a certain kind of disposition. If you are the kind of person who only ever likes Songs of Innocence by William Blake or hymns of praise – then you are also exempt from the sphere of appreciation.

But there are also those who surpass the sphere of appreciation – whilst fully understanding the sense of the poem. This is the realm whereby a person who wants to reject the poem should aim for. In other words, it is the person who knows that – if he wanted to experience this kind of mood, he can access better quality stuff elsewhere.

For one – a poem whose contents is the explication of a lonely scene, and ends with the poet’s exhortation of woe – is basically a massive cliché in Classical Chinese poetry.

Here, for example, is a translation of a Du Fu poem:

After the battle, many new ghosts cry,
The solitary old man worries and grieves.
Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,
Snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.
The ladle’s cast aside, the cup not green,
The stove still looks as if a fiery red.
To many places, communications are broken,
I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.

Of course, Du Fu wrote with Classical rigor – and so he does not have the same colloquial or free verse sense of the Hagiwara poem. But this is only one example – there are thousands of such poems already existing within the reams of Chinese poetry out there.

Hagiwara has an edge in being starker – with ‘damned’ and calling himself a dog and whatever. That may provide a more gritty sense than Du Fu.

But Hagiwara would lose out to starkness in the way that Plath does it – for example:

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Then what about the imagery itself? In terms of imagery – he isn’t really that far from the Symbolists that came before him. Neither does he provide a counter-point by using that kind of imagery but having a twist at the end where he might say something like:

Always
But I am like this
Dog
A pale happy dog

If you have a moody psychological image in the first stanza, you can expect it to end with a psychological exhortation of misery. On the other hand, this provides a slight mode of acceptance to the poem – it points out of the poet’s feelings.

I’m not saying that the poem must point out – but that since so many people have already written poems that point into – creating their own psychological image landscape, then if you’re going to do the same you might as well provide a twist.

Of course, there are people who have done the twist before already – so merely changing it to ‘happy’ will not make Hagiwara’s stand out that much.

As you can see – the steps of appreciation are very simple: What is the sense of the poem as I understand it? -> Why might this sense be beautiful? -> Do I appreciate it in the end?

3.

The problem is making a critique that is special for the poem – that tells us of its significance. For example, it’s very easy to speak of the poem as a ‘lonely poem’ – but why is that significant?

Let’s say I take this critic from the Asian Review of Books:

In “Unknown Dog”, the poet examines the darkness of his heart, and the haunting shadow of solitude:

Ah, no matter how far, how far I go,
this utterly unknown dog follows me,
crawling along the filthy ground,
behind me, dragging its hind leg, a sick dog,
distant, long, sadly terrified,
at the lonely moon, howling afar and pale, an unhappy dog’s shadow.

The dog is symbolic of the hidden threats in life: loneliness, unfulfillment, and the vulnerability of man.

I could literally write something like this:

In “Unknown Dog”, the poet examines the darkness of his heart, and the haunting shadow of solitude:

I am being followed by a poodle
This filthy poodle is a dog
It is a shadow of my dog
It is a dog

The dog is symbolic of the hidden threats in life: loneliness, unfulfillment, and the vulnerability of man.

And you would not have told me a single inkling of why I should appreciate it because it is an image of loneliness.

These are also images of loneliness, unfulfillment, and the vulnerability of man:

I wanted chocolate ice-cream,
But all I got was vanilla –
It pains my heart.

I am like a butterfly caught in the middle of a giant field
That is slowly being eaten by the massive rotors
Of grinding tractors
Driven by blue screaming prostitutes

The plain sock
In the washing machine
Is being swept away by torrents of water and water
While it spins, cyclic – isolated

The test results came back
And my friend was so happy that he laughed
But I could not laugh
Because I failed
And I was the only one who failed
Because
I’m stupid

A great sign that you are saying nothing is if your criticism can apply to a wide variety of things – just by changing a few key terms.

4.

But – this raises a question.

If I am so critical of the appreciation – then aren’t I not playing the stringless qin?

Well, I have a different interpretation of the term.

Some people might view that playing the stringless qin refers to bending your taste to fit a poem. By bending your taste in a variety of ways, you can fit an infinite amount of poems.

But – to me – that is not playing the stringless qin. That is being played like a stringless qin.

To play the stringless qin means to have the poetry emanate directly from your own being, so that you do not have to rely on the creations of others as much. If you can recreate the mood yourself, with your own poem or music, there is no need to read poetry.

If I could paint like Picasso or Dali – why would I need to look at them? Much less – why would I need to buy them on the auction house?? This is the economic benefit of understanding how to play the stringless qin.

To play the stringless qin is to understand the cause and effects of the works you witness – and to understand how to invoke those cause and effects.

(Take note that ‘effect’ is different from ‘intention’ or ‘interpretation’ – it exists before them. When you understand cause and effect – you do not need to intend to write something, and neither do you care about the multivariant interpretations of it – you will simply replicate the cause to derive the effects. It is the difference between an amateur writer who intends to write about his love, but is unable to do so in a satisfactory way – and a writer who may not have experienced the same passions of love– but still successfully writes about love itself from observation.)

In this view, there is a difference between a person who critiques viciously for pure destruction, and a person who critiques viciously – but his disposition coolly integrating it into his being. In other words, he is destroying it to use it – and he is adding his strings to the stringless qin. On the surface, though, there may be no difference in tone between these two types of critics.

Thus, the Death of the Critic is the Birth of the Artist. This is because he no longer critiques, but he synthesizes.

Happy is he who uses a hammer to play the stringless qin!

Madoka Fanfiction

It seems that people who complete SubaHibi usually post long reviews either trying to dissect the plot or gushing over what an impact it had on their worldview/life/meaning.

On the other hand, I decided to write Madoka Fanfiction.